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Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club - Prospector Course
Superstition Mountain, Ariz. • August 15 - 18

Choe shoots 4-under-par 68 second day in a row, enters final round with lead

SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. — The Boys Division of the PING Phoenix Junior has two players tied atop the leaderboard after Niko Bain of Glendale, Ariz., fired a 7-under-par 65 and Jed Dirksen of Hampton, Iowa, shot a 5-under-par 67 to finish the second round with 8-under-par 136 tournament totals. Esther Choe of Scottsdale, Ariz., extended her lead after a second straight 4-under-par 68 gave her a 8-under-par 136 tournament total and the Girls Division lead heading into the final round.

Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, the PING Phoenix Junior is being played on Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club's par-72 Prospector Course. The 54-hole event features 63 boys and 20 girls, ages 12-18, from 17 states and two countries.

Bain began by shooting a 1-under-par 35 on his front nine, but the 17-year-old took the Prospector Course by the reins and fired a 6-under-par 30 on the back nine. Four consecutive birdies on Nos. 10 through 13 were capped off by birdies on Nos. 15 and 18.

“Everyday I play to play great,” Bain said. “I just look at the target and hit it as hard as I can.”

Dirksen was not to be overshadowed. After opening with a bogey on his first hole, Dirksen then rattled off four consecutive birdies of his own. He hit 12 greens and only had 24 putts en route to his 67.

“I was trying to shoot low and get a big lead for tomorrow,” Dirksen said. “I knew there were a lot of low scores behind me coming in.”

Bain and Dirksen will play together in the final pairing Friday alongside Nick Delio of Valencia, Calif., who sits in third at 5-under-par 139 after firing a second round 67. In a three-way tie for fourth at 4-under-par 140 are Hyun Seok Lim of Fullerton, Calif., Bennett Klaus of Edmond, Okla., and Robert Perrott III of Rio Rico, Ariz.

In the Girls Division, Choe made five birdies on her first nine holes to set the pace with a 5-under-par 31. Though she cooled down on her back nine, Choe is confident heading into the final round with the lead.

“I played well on my front nine, and I just have to keep working on my putting,” Choe said.

With five career victories under her belt and a 72.55 stroke average through seven events this year, Choe is no stranger to lofty aspirations, but the 17-year-old said she has humanitarian goals in her future as well.

“I'd like to be one of the top players in the world,” Choe said, “but I'd also like to find some way to help people through golf.”

Hot on Choe's heels is Taylor Karle of Scottsdale, Ariz., who shot her second straight 3-under-par 69 to finish the second round in second place at 138, two strokes behind Choe. Rachel Morris of Carlsbad, Calif., is in third after a 71 left her at 143.

The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The largest Association of its kind, the AJGA has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 foreign counties.

Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex Watch USA, which is in its third decade of support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004.

AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 wins. AJGA alumni include Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr, Candie Kung and Paula Creamer.

The final round of the PING Phoenix Junior will begin Friday, August 18 with tee times starting at 7:00 a.m. off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. For more information on the PING Phoenix Junior, contact tournament headquarters at (480) 677-6659 or (480) 677-6613 and ask for the AJGA.